Wheel of the World

“Hidden, like a seed upon the sandy shore,
I sprout and tap dance my way into the endless Sea.
Follow my lead…
Brave the sharp teeth and ravenous hunger which bar your path!
Persevere! Swim with courage!
Find your serenity and simply be!
The wheel of the world
becomes the pattern of my shield.
I bear the Wisdom of Ancestors and long years.
Open your heart wide as the Sea,
and you too might trace the map of Earth’s magnetic field!
Never lost for long, arriving always at the perfect time…
Each tear I shed is a step closer to
and Transformation sublime.
My shield protects me, but it is not the whole of my self…
nor does it sever me from All Our Relations.
We are never alone, never unloved.
The World sings to us always,
and we are One with all Creation.
Together we swim through the Heartwaters,
and the World rests upon our back.
Our love is boundless, a gift for everyone,
mothers, fathers,
sisters, brothers,
sons, and daughters.
Mitake Oyasin, This is our vow.”
Who Sings Now?

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.”

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We can share beaches and ocean with sea turtles but it requires commitment and effort on our part. We can make certain that future generations will have the opportunity to know these unusual animals. The late Dr. Archie Carr, a scientist and author who almost single-handedly began to turn the tide on the extinction of sea turtles, summed it up when he wrote, “For most of the wild things on earth the future must depend upon the conscience of mankind.” Our planet has come to an unprecedented point in its history where the actions of one species—man—will determine the fate of life on earth. It is not too late to ensure a future for sea turtles." Victoria B. Van Meter Florida’s Sea Turtles

“Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” Hans Margolius

Turtles Tortoises and Terrapins are reptiles, and closely related to the seven species of Sea Turtle ( Kemp’s Ridley, Flatback, Green, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead, Hawksbill, and Leatherback) that we will be discussing here. All turtles are well worth study of course, but Sea Turtles hold a special fascination for me. They have an extraordinary sense of direction and time, are extremely sensitive to the Earth’s magnetic field, and are long-lived Teachers with many lessons for us.

The first fossil evidence of sea turtles developed about 150-200 million years ago. These turtles were much larger than those with us today. The largest from that time period was about 13 feet across with a 16 foot wingspan! Sea Turtles, unlike their land-bound cousins, are specially adapted to life at sea with flipper like feet and compressed aerodynamic shells. They aren’t able to draw their limbs into their shells either, relying instead on their agility to protect these exposed areas. These aspects speak of Sea Turtle peoples’ inability to withdraw from a situation, retreat into themselves, to protect themselves. They rely instead upon their emotional adeptness, their hard shell, and the wisdom they have gained over time to protect them in times of danger.

“God helps them that help themselves.” proverb

Turtles of all sorts are symbolic of the Wisdom that comes with age, and Turtle people tend to be “wise beyond their years.” I see and hear a great many people today who consistently, and even unconsciously, look for things outside of themselves to blame their choices on. Wise Sea Turtle knows that every step we take on our Life path is by choice, and we must live with our choices even if we refuse to recognize that we have made a choice at all! We always have choices, even if we don’t like the choices available. Even a sociopath, who is literally born without a conscience, can choose to live their lives making choices with a deliberate mental conscience instead of the innate emotional one others have almost from birth. When we as a people begin to accept responsibility for ourselves, we will begin to acquire honest Wisdom, and begin to truly Live.

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” Isaac Asimov, Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations, 1988

“Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.” Elbert Hubbard

“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” Doug Larson

“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future. " George Bernard Shaw

They have no teeth but their beaks are modified jaw structures suitable for consuming their diet, which depending on the type of Sea Turtle, may be carnivorous, herbivorous, or omnivorous. Loggerheads’ and Ridleys’ jaws are adapted for crushing and grinding as their diet consists primarily of crabs, molluscs, shrimps, jellyfish and vegetation. Hawksbills have narrow heads with jaws meeting at an acute angle that helps them feed upon sponges, tunicates, shrimps, and squids that live hide in narrow crevices along a coral reef. Leatherbacks feed upon jellyfish, tunicates, and other soft-bodied animals. The mouth cavity and throat are lined with papillae (spine-like projections) pointed backward to help them swallow soft foods. In fact, their delicate scissor-like jaws would be damaged by any other diet! Some species change their diet as they grow. Adult Green sea turtles, for example, have finely serrated jaws adapted to their diet of sea grasses and algae. Yet, as juveniles they are largely carnivorous feeding upon jellyfish and other invertebrates.

The varied feeding habits of sea turtles reminds us of both the importance of adaptability, and the sacredness of individuality in our own lives. As always, it is beneficial not only to determine which specific breed of a Totem calls you and it’s close relatives, but the specific balancing energies. Sea Turtle shows us that while it shares many similarities between it’s close relatives, they don’t all have the same balancing energies. The totemic values of Crab are not likely to be as relevant to someone drawn to Hawksbill sea turtles, for example. Sea Turtle embodies the dichotomy of being at one with all the world, truly connected to All Our Relations, and being a unique individual. “This is what makes us One.”, Turtle says. “The whole and the part are inextricably bound together, and together we turn the Wheel of the World.”

Adult green sea turtles can weigh up to 500 pounds and are often found living near coral reefs and rocky shorelines where limu (algae) is plentiful. Although the carapaces of green sea turtles are mostly dark brown in color, they can be covered with patches of algae on which fishes in turn feed. This symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit is yet another clue that this reptile so closely bound with creative Sea energy is also an emblem of Ancient Wisdom, Intuition, Universal Love and Interconnectedness. As always, it is wise to study all close relations and balancing energies like Shark, Jellyfish, or the Sea. Sharks are one of the only natural predators of adult Sea Turtles other than humans.

“To think too long about doing a thing often becomes its undoing.” Eva Young

“Only Robinson Crusoe had everything done by Friday.” Author Unknown

“There is a wisdom of the head, and… a wisdom of the heart.” Charles Dickens

Sea turtles can be found in all but the coldest oceans, have excellent underwater vision, but are nearsighted on land. This shows us that Sea Turtle people are perhaps more adept at seeing ahead with the heart rather than the head; more understanding and in control of their emotions than their thoughts, or more importantly, their physical selves. Sea Turtle is no where near as adept on land as she is in water, unlike other types of turtles. This cautions Sea Turtle people to move even more slowly and thoughtfully One cannot tell the age of a turtle by appearance, and scientist estimate their lifespan to be about 100 years. Their long lives obviously connect them to the Ancestors, Ancient Knowledge, and longevity.

Sea Turtle reminds us that appearance does not accurately depict character or age though. Sea Turtle people often appear younger and behave in a more youthful manner than their actual age. They may also appear to act within their own time, rather than having a strict sense of time as it is judged in the modern world. Turtle people in general know that all things come to fruition when it is time for them to do so and not according to clocks or calendars. While they typically maintain a slow but steady pace, Sea Turtle people seem generally unconcerned about clear markers between past, present or future, and seem to know instinctively that Time is not a linear thing but flows constantly, like the Sea.

Deadlines tend to be rather inconvenient things to such folk and procrastination can become a serious problem for any Turtle person. There is a difference between taking ones time and assessing a situation from all angles, and simply putting something off because we don’t want to deal with it. However, independent Sea Turtle people do prefer to handle things themselves rather than delegate or pass off something that they know is important.

“The present was an egg laid by the past that had the future inside its shell.” Zora Neale Hurston

“If you seek the kernel, then y ou must break the shell. An likewise, if you would know the reality of Nature, you must destroy the appearance, and the farther you go beyond the appearance, the nearer you will be to the essence.” Meister Eckhart

“The great omission in American life is solitude; not loneliness, for this is an alienation that thrives most in the midst of crowds, but that zone of time and space, free from the outside pressures, which is the incubator of the spirit.” Marya Mannes

Sea turtles live rather solitary lives, never meeting or caring for their young, and only congregating during mating. Biologists believe that mother turtles return to the beaches of their own birth to build their nests and lay their eggs, but it is not yet understood how they find that one stretch of shore out of countless beaches. Hawaii’s Green sea turtles travel over 800 miles from their feeding grounds to their nesting sites! Usually during late spring, the males and females meet up and swim to the natal beaches where they mate. While females do not mate every year, when they do mate they come ashore as often as five times every 15 days to make nests in the sand and lay their multiple leathery eggs. Green sea turtles nest only at night, but construct their bottle-shaped nests much like any other Sea Turtle. The Ridley turtles are particularly noted for their mass nesting; arriving all at once at one lone beach in all the world to lay their eggs in what is called the arribada or “arrival”. Surely an extraordinary sight!

“Language… has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone." Paul Johannes Tillich, The Eternal Now

“There are days when solitude is a heady wine that intoxicates you with freedom, others when it is a bitter tonic, and still others when it is a poison that makes you beat your head against the wall.” Colette

“Solitude shows us what should be; society shows us what we are.’ Robert Cecil

This would suggest that despite their strong ties to nurturing and creative Mother energy, Sea Turtle people find greater comfort and serenity while alone, and value their independence. Dorothy Fisher once said, “A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.” This is a very adequate description of a Sea Turtle person’s approach to parenting. I certainly agree with this sentiment and kept it well in mind while raising my own children. However, it is important that Sea Turtle people avoid creating too much distance between themselves and their children, for there are indeed many predators and pitfalls in life and a parent’s first duty is to instruct and protect their children in how to recognize and deal with such issues.

Marlin: “How do you know if they’re ready?”
Crush: “Well, you never really know, but when they know, you know, y’know?” a conversation on parenting from Disney’s Finding Nemo

One should never value independence and a personal need for solitude over the needs of ones children, any more than one should sacrifice independence and need for solitude entirely in favor of the needs of our children. Once again, Balance is key. Soon enough, the time for nurturing, protecting and instructing will be gone, and they will be swimming off into the wide waters alone carrying all that you have taught them as a shield, like Sea Turtles shell, to protect them. A balance must be maintained between these two vital needs though; self and child. All Turtles have a strong connection to Motherhood, and perhaps none more than Sea Turtle who lives in the Heartwaters of our Mother Earth.

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish. " John Quincy Adams

“One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life. "Chinese Proverb

“How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?” Paul Sweeney

Sea turtles once numbered in the thousand but now all species are currently listed as endangered. Exploited by humans for food, leather, jewelery, oil and eggs for centuries, Sea Turtle has much more to offer us than these base material things. Sea Turtles represent Wisdom ancient and vast, the World, the Sea’s chaotic creative energy combined with Earth’s grounding solid force and the vital Air of thought, Patience, Perseverance, Transformation, Creation and Destruction in balance, the Medicine Wheel, Longevity, and Intuitive Navigation. Sea Turtle reminds us to take our time, take it all in, and be aware of all that surrounds you.

Perhaps two of their most important lessons are “change is the only constant, so relax and enjoy life”, and “the proper expression of our emotions is a natural and healthy necessity for a good life.” One of the most ingenious physical adaptions of Sea Turtles is their ability to maintain a good internal water balance by secreting excess salt through special glands just behind their eyes. These legendary “mock tears” are a tangible reminder that properly expressing emotions keeps us healthy and well-balanced. Crying is not a signal for alarm nor should it be suppressed, it is a sign of maintaining internal balance, soul-cleansing, release, and a gift to the World returning the water and salt of life directly from our hearts in an exchange of emotional energy. For all their thick shells and stoic demeanor, Sea Turtle people tend to have hearts as deeply compassionate as the endless Sea.

“To find out what others are feeling, don’t prod or poke. If you want to play with a turtle, you can’t get it to come out of its shell by prodding and poking it with a stick, you might kill it. Be gentle not harsh, hard or forceful.” Unknown

“Don’t be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves.” Dale Carnegie

Unlike many other creatures, the sex of a sea turtle is not determined by chromosomes at birth, but rather by the heat of the nest with warmer temps producing females and cooler temps producing males. This reminds us of our own ability to Transform. It is often necessary to Transform some aspect of self to successfully navigate life’s turbulent waters. Sea Turtle can help us to do this in a good way. This also reminds us that our most formative years are often spent in the nest of our youth, and this is where we learn a proper balance between male and female aspects both internally and externally in our interactions with others.

Once Loggerhead hatchlings reach the water they begin a swimming frenzy to reach the sargassum weed beds floating several miles offshore. Like other sea turtles, during that time they rely on the remaining yolk sac to feed them and this is a most dangerous time for young Loggerheads with many predators collecting to feed upon these tender delicacies. Once the weed beds are reached it is believed that they remain there for some years and are not seen again in coastal waters until they reach a size of 8-12 inches long. It is still not known how long this takes but estimates are 10-20 years. These aspects teach us that a Sea Turtle person’s most dangerous time is from infancy to adulthood. Often times such people experience turbulent childhoods filled with many trials. Youth is just one forge that we pass through in life though. Such trials are there to strengthen us, to teach us how to properly return the energy the Universe gives us in our creation and formation, and will often give Sea Turtle people of sense of a greater purpose, and a sense of duty to All Our Relations.

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” G.B. Shaw, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, 1893

“We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it. George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, 1860

“Difficult things take a long time, impossible things a little longer. Author Unknown

In a balanced individual this helps us to build up both a protective shell as well as giving us a wealth of life wisdom to help guide us in life. Unbalanced Sea Turtle people could crack under the pressures that Life can place upon us though. Feeling isolated instead of comfortable with the levels solitude in ones life, feeling disconnected from the World, suppressing emotions rather than giving them a good avenue of expression, emotional instability, extreme impatience or procrastination, feelings of being unable to overcome our challenges, inability to adapt to or accept a situation, or more importantly choosing to isolate ones self and rejecting the truth of the connection between us and All Our Relations are all signs of Sea Turtle imbalance.

Green sea turtles can cover a lot of territory, and have been recorded moving at about 35 mph! They surface often to breathe, but can sleep or rest underwater as adults for about 2 hours without breathing! They are able to hold higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in their blood than most air-breathers which enables them to use their oxygen most efficiently in their muscles and blood. Juveniles have not yet fully developed this ability and must stay afloat at the water’s surface while they sleep. Truly though, they are amazing to watch in motion. Like strange armored birds of the Sea, they soar across the vastness of the Heartwaters and into the legends and myths of countless civilizations.
In several cultures, it is said that Turtle holds the World upon his back. In fact, Native American traditions refer to the World as Turtle Island. Crush, a character from Disney’s film Finding Nemo, is a wonderful example of Sea Turtle energy in balance. At ease with himself and giving little thought to his advanced age, perfectly at home in his environment, proud of his offspring’s skills and independence, and quite able to advise the other characters on how to get where they need to be as well as the potential dangers along the way.

In the Tarot, the 21st card is The World, and water-dwelling turtles often represent the World as well. Like this card, Turtle tells us that we will be happiest, at our most complete, when everything works in harmony, and that we are a dynamic part of this harmony. In order to hold the World in our palms, we must give ourselves to it whole-heartedly. This is the source of all happiness. When my choices led me to a point in my life where I felt isolated and actually wanted to turn my back on the World, I began carrying a Sea Turtle (Squirt from Finding Nemo) on my keychain to remind me that I was a sacred part of the hoop of Life and this was a very good thing. Looking back, I see that this may very well have been my first step toward healing. I began writing these poems the same year. Compassionate, wise, gentle, persistent, bearer of the World… How does Sea Turtle appear in your life?

“The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running. " Unknown

“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” Unknown, in reference to Ecclesiastes 9:11,

“The timeless turtle will look on as man works feverishly to develop destructive nuclear weapons that will blow the world apart many times over. And perhaps one day when he pops his head up from the sea, he’ll see a world empty of man, with barnacles growing on the ruins of the cities and buildings. And somewhere, perhaps on a Mexican beach, a handful of Kemp’s ridleys filled with eggs will crawl out on the sand, unmolested and free.” Jack Rudloe Time of the Turtle

“Hundred and fifty, and still young, dude. Rock on!” Crush from Finding Nemo

Wheel of the World

Quinn Blackburn

Bethel Park, United States

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Artist's Description

Each Who Sings Now? poem is inspired by a Teacher found in Nature; tree, stone, animal, plant, etc. All Our Relations are still willing to teach anyone willing to gratefully listen. Nothing is ever truly lost as long as there is still someone willing to look for it.

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